…I reflected that there is nothing less material than money, since any coin (let us say a coin worth twenty centavos) is, strictly speaking, a repertory of possible futures. Money is abstract, I repeated; money is the future tense. It can be an evening in the suburbs, or music by Brahms; it can be maps, or chess, or coffee; it can be the words of Epictetus teaching us to despise gold; it is a Proteus more versatile than the one of the isle of the Pharos. It is unforseeable time, Bergsonian time, not the rigid time of Islam or the Porch. The determinists deny that there is such a thing in the world as a single possible act, id est an act that could or could not happen; a coin symbolises man’s free will.
The Zahir – Jorge Luis Borges
A lot of people see money as an end in itself. They grasp at money and save it up, wielding it over others as though it gives them power. All these piles of coins and notes and digital checkmarks in banking computer systems are nothing more than a potential night in the suburbs. Money has as much power, worth or value as we assign to it. Somebody with more money than you is not automatically deserving of more respect, merely on that basis alone. Somebody with less money that you is not automatically deserving of less respect, on that basis alone. Spending your life grasping at and saving money without ever using it to become all the possibilities it could be strikes me as pointless.
Money is the trading chips in a barter system. We perform actions which are servicable, or which others believe are worth money. We take the money. We use the money to give to others who perform servicable actions for us. Rinse, repeat. Money should not be static. Save, yes, but not for the sake of having a giant pile of money. Money is not power, unless you believe that someone with more money has more power than you. Having more money does not automatically mean more power, more respect or more authority. It is actions and thoughts which should determine how much respect is deserved. (I say ‘should’ because that isn’t what society seems to believe.)
I watched an episode of Justice last night, in particular the one dealing with Utilitarianism and the idea of cost/benefit analysis as applying to: a) recompense for loss of human life and b) finding out how much people would need to be paid to, say, have a tooth removed or strangle a cat to death. It was definitely interesting. I believe that as soon as a product is found to threaten lives it should immediately be fixed or recalled, no matter what the cost to the company. I also wouldn’t be able to put a price on strangling a cat to death, or eating an earthworm. Those are actions I wouldn’t usually perform, why should the lure of money make it any more likely that I would? Other people did give the actions a monetary value – to live in on a farm in Kansas foe the rest of their lives was valued at $300,000 I believe. I don’t think i could assign a monetary value to a decision which would affect me for the rest of my life. (Although, I probably should start going to better and more costly shops for my tattoos…).
I want the distribution of money to be fair. I want to see an ‘effort standard’ over a ‘gold standard’. (Do we even still run on the gold standard anymore? Where is all this gold?) I want a loaf of bread to equal a scarf based on time/effort/resources put in and a scarf to equal two buckets of water. I don’t know what would really equal what, or how to measure effort, but the standards we have at the moment to measure the value of money are junk.
Money is not power. Money is not authority. Money is not respect. Money is coffee, chess, a night in the suburbs. Nothing is less material than money.
What do you think? How real is money?